Kirby Smart

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No. 3 Georgia defense handles Vanderbilt as Dawgs are clearly team to beat in SEC East

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The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 SEC) started their SEC and season opener at Vanderbilt with touchdowns on each of their first three offensive possessions and the defense took care of things from there. Georgia handled Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC) from start to finish and left Nashville with a 30-6 victory to start the season.

Georgia scored touchdowns on drives of 75, 89, and 80 yards to start the game but the offense went quiet for most of the remainder of the night. A couple of field goals by Rodrigo Blankenship helped pad the lead and a late Vanderbilt turnover, but there were not a ton of offensive highlights for the Georgia offense to speak of. D’Andre Swift did lead the ground attack with 147 yards as the Bulldogs took advantage of their strength on the ground. As a team, Georgia rolled up over 300 yards of rushing offense, which led Jake Fromm to not have to turn in a big night throwing the football. It was a game that Georgia was fine just dominating on the ground, even if it didn’t lead to much damage on the scoreboard.

Georgia’s victory in the SEC East game came on the same day much of the division had some trouble in Week 1. A week after Florida won an ugly game against Miami in Week 0, Kentucky took a while to take care of Toledo at home, South Carolina lost to North Carolina in Charlotte, and Tennessee was dumped at home by Georgia State. Missouri was in some serious trouble at Wyoming in the same time slot. A couple others in the SEC had some struggles as well. Arkansas had a seven-point win over FCS Portland State at home. Mississippi State had a closer game on the road against Louisiana than expected. Ole Miss lost at Memphis and Auburn was struggling in primetime against Oregon as the Bulldogs were taking care of Vanderbilt. Alabama may have taken a while to get rolling but took care of Duke in Atlanta, and LSU had no concerns against Georgia Southern. All in all, Georgia clearly looked like the best team in the SEC East, and the gap may not have closed much since last season if we are to judge on one week of games.

Regardless of that outlook in the division, Kirby Smart will have plenty of issues to take into practices next week while preparing for Week 2. Georgia was flagged for too many penalties (but Vanderbilt was called for even more), and the offense went into a bit of a lull after their first three possessions went for touchdowns on drives covering at least 75 yards. Third-down conversions were almost impossible to find (1-of-7), which should be another concern to address. There should be credit given to Vanderbilt’s defense for not allowing Georgia’s offense to run away with things on their home field, but it should be at least a sticking point that Smart addresses with the team in the coming days once they begin reviewing the film from this game. And to be clear, Georgia was hardly ever in a stressful situation where the game could have been lost.

The Georgia defense, however, will earn high marks for their season debut. Vanderbilt was unable to be effective on third down for much of the night and scratching together yards was incredibly difficult from start to finish. Georgia has a defense that will be tough for teams to find much room to work this season, and that bodes well for the Bulldogs. It is not often the Georgia offense will be limited as much as they were against Vandy, and expect Smart to clean up a few things moving forward.

Look for the Georgia offense to have some more big numbers in the next couple of games. Georgia is home next week against an FCS opponent, Murray State, and then they host Arkansas State in Week 3. That allows plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles and clean things up a bit as Georgia is set to host Notre Dame in primetime on Sept. 21 before jumping into SEC play for the rest of the season (not counting the Georgia Tech game).

As for Vanderbilt, the defense proved they can hang in there. After giving up long touchdown drives their first three times out, the Commodores were not easy to move on the rest of the night. They’ll look to continue that defensive effort and improve the offensive output next week with a road game in Big Ten territory against Purdue. Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season. Purdue lost their season opener on Thursday night against Nevada.

Georgia dismisses WR Jeremiah Holloman amid investigation for assault

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One of Georgia’s top wide receivers from 2018 with a bright upside for the upcoming season is no longer a part of the program. Jeremiah Holloman has been removed from the program shortly after allegations of assault form a 2018 incident have led to an investigation that is currently ongoing.

“Jeremiah Holloman no longer represents the University of Georgia football program,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said in a statement, as reported by The Covington News. “We expect every member of our team to uphold the highest standards and values of the University of Georgia and Georgia football. It is disappointing when this does not happen.”

The incident in question reportedly was after Georgia’s spring game in 2018, with an alleged victim claiming she was choked by Holloman during an argument. As the police report indicates, Holloman was restrained by his brother, but Holloman allegedly punched the alleged victim in the face. The alleged victim received stitches for her wounds but did not initially reveal the true cause of the injury. Holloman reportedly told police the alleged victim sent him threatening messages suggesting someone would get him.

Holloman played in all 14 games for Georgia last season, accumulating 418 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He caught two touchdowns in Georgia’s 36-17 victory over Florida as the highlight of his 2018 season, although he also caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in a nice road win at Missouri prior to that.

The last time the Georgia Bulldogs won the national championship…

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It’s been a long time since the Georgia Bulldogs have won a national championship, but Kirby Smart has the program on a level where one can be expected any year now in Athens. Georgia’s biggest problems over the years may have been having really good teams that were blocked by some truly great teams standing in the way. The closest Georgia has come tow inning a national championship since their last title in 1980 was two seasons ago when the Bulldogs were unable to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead and lost in overtime to SEC foe Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

Vince Dooley had been coaching the Bulldogs since 1964, and Georgia certainly had some great seasons to that point under his leadership. But things finally fell into place for Georgia in 1980 when Georgia opened the season ranked No. 16 in the AP poll and turned in the first undefeated season for the program since 1946. One of the reasons for Georgia’s success was the play of freshman running back Herschel Walker, who took no time at all to introduce himself to the college football world with authority. In the season opener against Tennessee, Walker powered his way through Bill Bates in an iconic moment.

Georgia’s undefeated run included victories over No. 14 South Carolina and No. 20 Florida, back-to-back shutouts of Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and a regular season finale victory over rival Georgia Tech to setup a showdown with No. 7 Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. No. 2 Florida State was going to play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, while No. 3 Pitt lined up against No. 18 South Carolina in the Gator Bowl. No. 5 Michigan was sent to the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champion. All the top-ranked Bulldogs had to do was beta the Irish and the polls would fall in their favor, although the Sooners clipping the Seminoles by a point certainly helped cement the case for the national title.

Here’s a snapshot of what was going on in 1980 when Georgia ruled the college football landscape.

Last National Title Season: 1980 (39 years and counting)

Who was President?

Although Jimmy Carter was in office when Georgia was running through their schedule, the Democratic incumbent was defeated by Ronald Reagan in a landslide of epic proportions in November. It would be Reagan who welcomed the Bulldogs to the White Hosue to be honored as national champions.

In 1980, current President Donald J. Trump identified as a Democrat and was married to his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková.

What was on TV?

It was the end of an era on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” with the final episodes for the Not Ready for Primetime Players, but that would lead to the introduction of Eddie Murphy in the new cast later in the year. David Letterman also made his debut as host of “The David Letterman Show,” a morning show that did not pan out very well. Surely this would be the end of Letterman’s television career…

One of the biggest questions in television history was asked following the season finale of “Dallas” aired leaving many to wonder who shot J.R.

Respected news anchor Walter Cronkite also announced his retirement. 1980 also saw the launch of cable networks CNN, Cinemax, and BET. Also on cable networks, a network called ESPN aired the NFL Draft for the first time in television history.

What movies were hot?

One of the biggest reveals in cinematic history occurred in 1980 when James Earl Jones delivered one of his most iconic lines to a young Mark Hamil. Yes, Darth Vader was, in fact, Luke’s father, as we all learned in The Empire Strikes Back. Not surprisingly, the sequel to the original Star Wars led the way at the box office in 1980. Hopefully, it wasn’t spoiled for some of you standing in line to see the movie for yourself for the first time.

If thrillers were your thing, then The Shining had you covered with Jack Nicholson in one of his most famous roles to date. Other popular movies in 1980 included 9 to 5, Stir Crazy, and Airplane!. A sequel to Smokey and the Bandit was released to less fanfare, and The Blues Brothers became a cult favorite for some.

Hollywood paid their respects to the passing of Alfred Hitchcock, who passed away in April. Robert De Niro took home the Oscar for Best actor for his role in Raging Bull.

Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?

Nobody, of course. Not only didn’t the video game franchise exist at the time, but the company that developed the game (Electronic Arts) wasn’t founded for another two years. The polygons needed for a quality video game were still not available anyway. At the time, Pac-Man was just becoming a national icon following his first arcade game in May, while other games taking over the arcade scene included Missile Command and the Atari 2600 and Intellivision were making its way into homes before the video game market would crash in a few short years.

What else happened in 1980?

“Do you believe in miracles?” Al Michaels, who currently calls the action for Sunday Night Football on NBC, delivered his signature call as the United States men’s hockey team was seconds away from upsetting the Soviet Union’s hockey team in the Olympics.

The Philadelphia Phillies won their first World Series title by topping the Kansas City Royals in six games. The Phillies had taken out the Houston Astros in one of the best NLCS to this day. It wasn’t all great for the Philadelphia sports scene in 1980, however. The 76ers were taken out by the Los Angeles Lakers as rookie point guard Magic Johnson took over the series in place of an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The New York Islanders also defeated the Flyers with an overtime goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Eagles would go on to lose to John Madden and his Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl at the end of the 1980 season.

Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Conference champions in college football included UNC (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 8), Michigan (Big Ten), Washington (Pac-10), Baylor (Southwest Conference), and BYU (WAC). George Rogers of South Carolina won the Heisman Trophy. BYU’s Jim McMahon led the nation in pass completions and passing yards and touchdowns. USC’s Marcus Allen led the nation in rushing attempts.

Current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was five years old. Nick Saban was in his first year as a defensive backs coach for Ohio State.

Will this be the year for Georgia?

Smart has certainly invigorated the Bulldogs to thinking like a national championship contender once again. While Georgia had been one of the more consistently good programs for years under Mark Richt, they just could not get over the hump and a string of better national title contenders just happened to be playing at the same time during the BCS glory days of the SEC and into the College Football Playoff. But Smart has raised the bar for Georgia, and it would not be shocking to see Georgia making consistent pushes for playoff consideration and getting a shot at a long-awaited national title very soon.

Kirby Smart refuses to engage in war of words with Dan Mullen

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If there is one thing Florida head coach Dan Mullen has enjoyed doing since his arrival in Gainesville last year, it may be in stirring up the pot. Though he is certainly not going to be mistaken for Steve Spurrier when it comes to verbal jabs at conference and division rivals, Mullen is ready to take some subtle jabs at his foes from time to time. But Georgia head coach Kirby Smart isn’t about to get caught up in the fun in such a fashion.

In an interview with ESPN’s Paul Finebaum last week, Smart took the high road when asked about one of Mullen’s more recent troll jobs using the spring game attendance to remind everyone just how long it has been since Georgia won a national championship (it’s been 39 years, or 476 games for those keeping score at home, and at least one Florida fan was absolutely keeping score).

“If I go out and do that as a coach, how do I look to my players? It is not something that I enjoy doing or want to do,” Smart replied (as transcribed by Dawg Nation). “I just want to go work really hard and grind and play the game and may the best team win.”

Smart continued on this thought with more emphasis on wanting to let the play on the field do the talking.

“I just don’t think you need that. That is not going to make Georgia great,” Smart said. “We are not going to move up in the rankings by what I say. We are going to do it by how we play. We want to talk with our helmets. That is what we always talk about – we want to play a physical brand of football and not do it with our mouthpiece.”

It’s worth a reminder that Georgia has won the SEC East each of the past two seasons and the Bulldogs let their helmets do the talking last year against the Gators with a loud statement. But after Georgia got humbled by Texas in the Sugar Bowl and Florida thumped Michigan in the Peach Bowl, Mullen probably as a good reason to be feeling pretty good about where his program is heading.

Perhaps this is a demonstration of the two different approaches Mullen and Smart take to running their respective programs. Mullen is attempting to breathe life into the Florida program and bring back the kind of swagger once enjoyed by Spurrier on the sidelines, and he’s willing to have some fun with his statements in doing so. Smart is the polar opposite, a brand off the Nick Saban coaching tree. Like Saban, Smart is focusing his energy into simply having a team that will go out and beat you up on the line of scrimmage and wear you down on the field. There is no right or wrong way to go about running a program, and what works for Mullen may not work for Smart and vice-versa. Just take the last few national championship head coaches, Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. Both coaches run their programs differently with the same goals in mind, and both have been successful on the biggest stage in doing so.

But if this is just going to add fuel to the fire of the Florida-Georgia rivalry, keep it up. Watching this rivalry will continue to be fun watching unfold in the years to come as long as Smart and Mullen are in place.

Who will be the next first-time college football national championship coach?

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On Monday night, Virginia and Texas Tech will battle for the men’s basketball national championship. A victory will clinch the first national championship as a head coach for either Virginia head coach Tony Bennett or Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard. But if you want college basketball coverage, our friends over at College Basketball Talk have you taken care of. Here, we’ll take the football angle and try to determine what college football coach will be the next to win his first national championship.

First, a refresher of the recent history of championship head coaches. Unless you’ve been sleeping under Howard’s Rock, you know the last four national titles have been split evenly by Nick Saban of Alabama and Dabo Swinney of Clemson. Swinney is the most recent coach to win his first national championship, having done so three seasons ago with a victory over Saban’s Crimson Tide in the 2016 season. Before Swinney, the most recent coach to win his first national title was Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, in the 2013 season in the final BCS Championship Game before the College Football Playoff took over. Since the 2010 season, the only other coach to win his first national title was Gene Chizik at Auburn, doing so in the 2010 season with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton topping the Oregon Ducks in the BCS Championship Game.

There are certainly some obvious candidates to be the next coach to win his first national title. The conversation likely has to begin with Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma. In his first two seasons as head coach of the Sooners, Riley has taken two Big 12 championship teams into the College Football Playoff with a Heisman Trophy quarterback, although the Sooners have yet to win a playoff game. Each time, Oklahoma was eliminated by the national title runner-up. It doesn’t look as though Oklahoma is going to be slowing down any time soon, although the competition just in the conference may improve and make a playoff run a tad more difficult. Tom Herman at Texas could be the most likely coach out of the Big 12 not named Riley to win his first national title.

There are still some coaches to watch in the SEC as well. Kirby Smart has already taken Georgia to the national title game, where they lost in overtime against Alabama two seasons ago. He will certainly be in the mix to win his first national title. He’s even taken out Riley and Oklahoma! Dan Mullen at Florida could be a coach in the running as well, although there may still be some work to do in Gainesville before Florida can crack the four-team playoff field. Or will the football gods align the fates just right for Ed Orgeron to take LSU the distance?

The ACC is tough to find a coach you can feel has a great shot to be the next coach to win his first national title, especially with Clemson continuing to roll for the foreseeable future. The Pac-12 looks like a difficult spot too considering the quality of play in the conference recently. The thought of Mike Leach being the next to win his first national title is fun to dream about though.

But what about the Big Ten? Ryan Day is taking over as head coach of a playoff-worthy candidate at Ohio State this season. Jim Harbaugh should have another strong Big Ten contender to work with this upcoming season. James Franklin and Penn State have a couple hurdles they need to prove they can clear again before making their case, but all three coaches would certainly be on the radar.

Or, if you dare to do so, do you think there is a Group of Five coach out there ready to make the jump to a power conference program and guide them to a national title in the next few years while Saban and Swinney go another couple of championship rounds? Call your shot in the comment section or on Twitter.